Posts Tagged ‘Ms. Tree’

Long and Winding Road

Tuesday, February 14th, 2017

Paperback:

E-Book: Amazon Google Play Nook Kobo iTunes

Thanks to all of you who responded warmly to my update last week about the recently published “new and expanded” Road to Perdition prose novel. The sequel, Road to Purgatory, has just been reprinted by Brash Books in a uniform edition, and Road to Paradise will follow later this year or early next.

So, with your patience, I’ll talk a little about how Road to Purgatory came about, and the challenges involved.

The original graphic novel concept of Road to Perdition was developed for DC Comics editor Andy Helfer. Initially the plan was to do three 300-page graphic novels, each serialized in 100-page installments (the final book as published is in 100-page sections), for an epic 900 pages. I had been in part inspired by the great manga, Lone Wolf and Cub, and the epic nature of that work was something to aspire to.

Andy Helfer and I, however, had not come to terms with what the next two 300-page installments would be. I wanted to keep the father and son outlaws on the road for the full 900-pages, with various adventures not unlike the format of the classic TV series, The Fugitive. Andy had another idea – he thought I should do a generational saga, with Michael Jr. growing up in the middle section, and either aging him further in the final section or following another generation of O’Sullivans into a world of crime and vengeance and (maybe) redemption.

The more I mentally chewed on it, the more Andy’s notion made sense. I still liked my idea, and greedily thought about doing both – a long road saga with Michael O’Sullivan Sr. and son, and a generational saga that grew out of it.

This all became a moot point when DC’s Paradox Press line, designed to do noir graphic novels, sputtered to a premature death. Road to Perdition was the last graphic novel Paradox Press published, so any follow-ups seem unlikely.

Of course Richard and Dean Zanuck deciding to make a movie out of Road to Perdition was even more unlikely, and yet it happened.

With the movie in production, and having written the novelization (even if it was published in a truncated form…until just lately), I thought writing prose sequels, as opposed to graphic novel ones, made the most sense.

Why didn’t I write another graphic novel? Actually, I did – Road to Perdition 2: On the Road (from DC) played out my idea of showing the father and son on the road having adventures while fleeing the wrath of the Chicago mob.

But the generational saga, it seemed to me, would be better served by prose. Also, I was in the position of being primarily a prose writer of crime and mystery fiction, and suddenly the most famous thing I’d ever written was a comic book. I wanted to bring a wider audience to what I do most often: prose novels, where the readers have to provide the pictures in their heads.

Also, I knew I could get a prose sequel (Road to Purgatory) into the marketplace sooner – striking while the iron is hot – rather than go through the longer process of creating a graphic novel. My great collaborator, Richard Piers Rayner, had taken over four years to draw the 300 pages of Road to Perdition.

Another challenge was what to do about the differences between the film version of Perdition and the original graphic novel. I could only write a sequel to the latter – any changes Hollywood had made belonged to them, and anyway, I preferred my own version. The two major changes were the dramatic killing off of John Looney (Rooney in the film) and the inability of Michael Jr. to kill the man who had shot his father. In my world, John Looney didn’t die until many years later (since he was an historical figure and I like to stay true to history) and Michael Jr. indeed shot his father’s killer. His redemption came, not from his dying father doing the killing for him, but many years later.

I dance around this in the novel – I even do some dancing in my Perdition prose novel, which suggests that maybe Michael Jr. did shoot his father’s killer. In my novel Road to Purgatory I own up to that, but suggest that others have assumed the father did the killing. And I don’t mention the real circumstances of John Looney’s death.

That way someone who comes to the three prose novels will not experience jarring differences between the first and second book.

As some of you know, there is also a graphic novel called Return to Perdition, drawn by my longtime Ms. Tree partner, Terry Beatty. This indeed pays off editor Andy Helfer’s generational saga notion by following the story of Michael Jr.’s son in Vietnam and beyond. Some have suggested that I might write a prose version of that story – which I view as a kind of coda to the three prose novels – but it’s unlikely.

Why in doing the last chapter of the saga did I return to the original graphic novel form? Simple. I pitched it to the publisher of the two prose sequels and they weren’t interested. But DC Comics was. So it became a graphic novel.

It isn’t always about “what’s the ideal way to tell the story.” It’s often, who will pay me money to tell the story? That’s why I have gone out of my way to master, as best I can, not only the novel form but comics and movies and for that matter TV. More bites at the apple.

Working in the arts fulltime requires a grasp of reality. For example, I had proposals written for both Road to Purgatory and ROAD TO PARADISE, but did not submit them to a publisher until the movie had come out. In fact, I had to wait to see if the movie opened big before my agent would even contemplate approaching a publisher. When Road to Perdition had a hugely successful opening weekend, we submitted to multiple houses and had an auction with numerous offers. A week before we would have been lucky to get any offer. Reality.

One key thing I failed to mention last week about The New and Expanded Road to Perdition. It’s a simple fact about movie novelizations that seldom gets discussed: when a writer does a novelization of a film, he or she works from the screenplay and almost never has access to anything else. Sometimes some stills from the set are provided, but the writer never sees the movie before writing the novel.

I admit to being proud of myself when I re-read the complete novelization, in getting it prepared to finally be published by Brash Books. The novel really captures the film…and I hadn’t seen it! I “directed” from the screenplay something very similar to the film version that Sam Mendes directed. That alone makes the Perdition prose novel my proudest achievement in the movie tie-in field…particularly now that you can read it!

Road to Purgatory is available right now from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, BAM! and the usual suspects. Your favorite independent bookstore can also order it for you, if you would care to support them, which is a good idea.

* * *

The positive reviews on the Quarry Blu-ray keep coming in. Here’s one.

Here’s another.

And another.

And this one includes a shot at winning the DVD set. [Note from Nate: Contest is for UK residents only.]

Same opportunity here. [Note from Nate: For UK residents only. Also, might be Blu-Ray? Not sure.]

M.A.C.

Here’s to Bill Crider

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2016

My friend Bill Crider, that terrific writer whose blog is one of the most entertaining in the mystery field, got some bad health news recently. Read about it here (and use the link to his Bill Crider’s Pop Culture Magazine blog to leave him some good wishes):

http://therapsheet.blogspot.com/2016/07/best-wishes-to-bill-crider.html

What is special about Bill, beyond his talent as a storyteller and the humor he displays every day in his blog, is the way he supports and encourages other writers. If you follow these updates, you should have noticed how often he has had nice things to say about my work. So send one up for Bill, and make it a good one.

I came back from the San Diego Comic Con with a few health issues of my own, albeit much more minor. For one thing, I’m retaining water (do your own joke here) and, in unrelated medical fun, am facing another procedure. An apparently non-cancerous growth on my right lung requires some attention that will give me a return trip to the hospital for a couple of days followed by a week or two of serious loafing. I have lots scheduled this month and next, including Bouchercon and my 50th High School Reunion, at which the Daybreakers are regrouping for a rare performance. So I’m hoping to put this off till very late September or early October.

Right now I’m working on EXECUTIVE ORDER, third in the Reeder and Rogers “Branches of Government” trilogy. It’s been very stop/start – last week two doctor’s visits screwed me up – and that’s not helpful. Before that, five days came out of my schedule to attend San Diego Comic Con (somehow I don’t sense any sympathy coming my way for that). Thing is, I like to burrow in, keep right at it. Writing a novel is like reading one: put it down for a while, you forget what it’s about.

Also, I just signed 1000 signature pages for the limited hardcover of the Mike Hammer short story collection, A LONG TIME DEAD. Jane Spillane will be signing, too. Here’s the info if you’re interested.

Speaking of A LONG TIME DEAD, here’s a typically patronizing but really pretty good Kirkus review of it. Considering how often they have filleted me with a rusty pocketknife, I’m pleased.

My pal Terry Beatty clued me in about a nice defense of the much-maligned-but-actually-quite-wonderful STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE from Simon Pegg, who not only plays Scottie in STAR TREK: BEYOND, but co-wrote it. Barb and I saw BEYOND for a second time, in 3-D for this go-around, which I thought was an improvement over an already strong entry. BEYOND is possibly too action-heavy, some of it incoherently so, and the villain’s motivation is hazy to say the least; but it really captures the characters and their interplay, and should delight STAR TREK fans (and I am one). Several references to the late Leonard Nimoy are moving, and an end card dedicates the film to the late Anton Yelchin, tragically dead at 27, who has many nice moments as Chekov in the film.

The QUARRY TV series is getting lots of Net play. Check out Crimespree’s coverage here.

This site has a complete listing of QUARRY episode titles and air dates.

The writers responsible for getting Quarry on the tee-vee, Michael Fuller and Graham Gordy, are interviewed here. They have spent four hard years making this happen.

Finally, here’s another podcast devoted to a MS. TREE issue (haven’t listened to this one yet myself, but I will).

M.A.C.

Quarry – September 9!

Tuesday, June 28th, 2016

The first of eight episodes of QUARRY will be on Cinemax on September 9 at 10 p.m. (I assume that’s eastern time).

Obviously this has been a long time coming, but I think the wait will have been worth it. Already the series has resulted in Hard Case Crime reissuing the first five books, with a new book coming in October (QUARRY IN THE BLACK), a four-issue comic book series early next year, and another novel (QUARRY ON TARGET) that I will write later this year.

The news about the series and its debut is all over the Internet – probably a couple of dozen write-ups. Here are several that should serve to catch you up.

The Early Word has something of a publishing slant. Collider has advance images, and Den of Geek is nicely opinionated.

* * *

A big Kindle sale is coming up later this week, featuring assorted titles of mine in the Mystery, Thriller & Suspense category. Each book will be $1.99. The sale begins July 1 and runs through July 31.

Here are the specific titles:
[Note from Nate: For your convenience, I’ve linked the Amazon logo to each book’s Amazon page, and the text title to each book’s info page on our website.]

CHICAGO LIGHTNING
WHAT DOESN’T KILL HER
SUPREME JUSTICE
THE TITANIC MURDERS
THE LONDON BLITZ MURDERS
THE HINDENBURG MURDERS
THE WAR OF THE WORLDS MURDER
THE PEARL HARBOR MURDERS
TRUE CRIME
THE MILLION-DOLLAR WOUND

Beginning 7/1/2016, go here:
https://www.amazon.com/b?node=13819722011.

If you go there before that date, the page may not show the new promotion, or it may be empty. If that’s the case, check back on July 1, the official start date.

* * *

The Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame discussion continues. Here’s a great comment from Mike Dennis that you may have missed:

I’m on board with Pat Boone, Max. For exactly the reasons you cite. He singlehandedly opened the door for R&B artists who couldn’t get their records played on white radio stations by recording their songs himself. And of course, those R&B artists collected lots of money in songwriting
royalties.

As far as the 1958-63 (Elvis/Army – Beatles invade US) era is concerned, I’ve thought about that. It was not the most fertile period for rock & roll. Think about 1958. Rock & roll was in danger of disappearing altogether. I’m sure you remember. Radio DJs were breaking records on the air, clergymen from coast to coast were pounding their pulpits over this sinful, new music. It was not a given than the music would survive, rather it was held together by a loose gathering of young artists and the eager teenagers who had fallen under their spell. The adults couldn’t stand it.

Then Elvis entered the Army, Jerry Lee Lewis self-destructed on his disastrous tour of the UK, and Buddy Holly died in February of 1959. That was really the end of the period where this raw, exciting music was being made by mostly young Southern boys, independent of each other, music crafted and honed in the dirt-road joints of the emerging South. The songs, and the artists who recorded them, were a natural outgrowth of a post-World War II America, reflecting (like the film noir that rose during that period) all the alienation that existed in the country at that time.

The songs spoke only to young people, while the artists were generally sex-crazed hillbillies sent out on the road with no adult supervision. Elvis was the King of Rock & Roll. Jerry Lee Lewis was supposed to inherit the throne following his British tour. Holly represented the music’s sensitive side. But with all three of them gone by early 1959, there was a vacuum at the top. The major record companies saw their opening and moved in. They swiftly rounded up a stable of compliant, cute, barely-talented artists who were willing to do what they were told for a shot at stardom. Rock & roll songs were no longer written on the back of napkins or on paper bags, they were written in the Brill Building by calculating, businesslike songwriters whose job it was to turn out hits that had been scrubbed clean of sexuality.

Also, I’m glad you pointed out the role of the Wrecking Crew in the making of so many great records. I would like to note there was a British version of the Wrecking Crew — I’m not sure if they had a slick name like that — that played on most of the British Invasion records. One noteworthy example is the Kinks’ first two records, YOU REALLY GOT ME and ALL DAY AND ALL THE NIGHT. The opening buzzsaw guitar chords were played by Jimmy Page, not Dave Davies as is commonly thought. I met Page in 1966, right after he joined the Yardbirds and he told me all about those sessions. Until then, he was a first-call studio player in London and he and a few other guys played on all the British Invasion records (all, that is, except the Beatles, the Stones, and maybe a couple of others).

That said, I still don’t consider Buffalo Springfield as anything more than a one-hit wonder. Laura Nyro was a great songwriter, as you pointed out, but I don’t think she’s worthy of induction in the R&RHOF. There are artists I would like to see in the Hall, like Johnny Rivers, the Monkees, and the Association, but as long as the Hall is itself not worthy of having them, I’m not going to get too upset over their omission.

Mike, thanks for this articulate, insightful mini-essay. Much of what you say I agree with, but I think you (in a way characteristic of some who highly value Elvis, Jerry Lee and Buddy Holly) underestimate some of what was going on in the between-Elvis-and-the-Beatles years. Some very exciting stuff was happening, on the east coast particularly. You know I am a big Bobby Darin fan – his version of his own “Early in the Morning” is far superior to the rushed Buddy Holly cover, and Darin cut many strong rockers backed by great Atlantic Records session men. I would also cite artists like Bobby Vee and Bobby Rydell (two more of the much-maligned “Bobbys” and neither on a major label) as real rock artists.

Then there’s Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound, and I can’t agree about the Brill Building output – not when we’re talking Bacharch & David, Goffin & King, Mann & Weil, Pompous & Shuman, Greenwich & Barry, Leiber & Stoller. A lot of that was anything but scrubbed of sexuality.

You mention 1958. Rock was not disappearing – not with the Everly Brothers, Ricky Nelson, Danny and the Juniors, the Coasters, Little Anthony and the Imperials, and – oh yeah – a guy named Chuck Berry…all charting. From ‘59 to ‘62, there were many greats and near-greats making hit records: Lloyd Price, Ritchie Valens, Dion and the Belmonts, Freddy Cannon (“Woo!”), Ray Friggin’ Charles, Jackie Wilson, Johnny Cash, Del Shannon (opened for him!), the Shirelles, Gary U.S. Bonds, Joey Dee and the Starlighters, and Gene Pitney. Not chopped liver! And not a major record company artist in the bunch.

The supposed dearth of rock post-Elvis and pre-Beatles strikes me as highly exaggerated. I wonder how many people like me – I’m now the ancient age of 68 – lived through all of these eras of rock and loved every one.

A couple of footnotes. The Buffalo Springfield played at the Masonic Temple in Davenport, Iowa, within a year of when my band the Daybreakers played there, when we opened for the Rascals and Gary Puckett. Buffalo Springfield was amazing and brave – they played extended, very loud solos prefiguring what every band would be doing in a year or two, and alienating much of the Iowa teenage audience. And my God was the fringe on Neil Young’s leather jacket long!

Same venue, same year. Gene Pitney and several other acts, including the Turtles (opened for them twice!), appeared in a kind of caravan-of-stars format. Pitney tore the place up, his vocals just towering. Then half-way through the set, he spoke for the first time, telling the audience in a hoarse voice, almost a whisper, that he apologized for doing so poorly, but he had a bad cold and was fighting laryngitis. Then he sang THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE.

* * *

Finally, MS. TREE fans may enjoy this fun, smart podcast in which two comic book experts review (favorably) the story “One Mean Mother.”

M.A.C.

James Bond And Me

Tuesday, November 10th, 2015
Fate of the Union

Paperback:
E-Book:
Audio MP3 CD:

Before we get to James Bond, I need to mention that FATE OF THE UNION’s pub date is today. Over the weekend, Barb and I took a day trip to Des Moines and listened in the car to the audio version, read by the always terrific Dan John Miller.

This really seems like a good one to me, whether you read it or Dan reads it to you, and I hope you’ll give it a try.

* * *

We tend to think of the pop-culture British Invasion as beginning with the Beatles. But I doubt the Beatles would have hit quite so hard if secret agent James Bond hadn’t softened up American teenagers first.

I was thirteen or fourteen when I first read Ian Fleming. I was in the eighth grade, and in complete Mickey Spillane/Mike Hammer thrall. But Mickey wasn’t writing much – his first novel in almost a decade, THE DEEP (1961), was not a Hammer – and I was in the market for something to tide me over until Spillane got around to writing something again. But I’d already plowed through all the Richard S. Prather/Shell Scott novels and a lot more (and Chandler and Hammett, of course).

Then came James Bond.

Ian Fleming, on the first round of Signet paperback Bond reprints (significantly, Mickey’s paperback publisher), was blurbed as the British Spillane, and Bond the Brit Hammer. This wasn’t hard to do, since many reviews pointed out Spillane as a Fleming source, and Signet even used Hammer cover artist Barye Phillips. Despite Fleming’s third-person approach, and the civil servant aspect of the character, Bond was nonetheless very similar to Hammer – a killer who got a lot of sex, to put it bluntly. Calling Bond a Hammer imitation would not be going too far.

The first Fleming novel, CASINO ROYALE – published at the height of worldwide Spillane mania (1953) – was in particular a Hammer-like novel, right down to its violent, sado-masochistic torture-scene climax and its abrupt ending, with the chilling last line of the book not unlike I, THE JURY’S “It was easy.”

While Fleming never replaced Spillane in my pulpy little heart, Bond zoomed into a secure second place behind the world’s toughest private eye. Reading these books in the early ‘60s – though most were published in the ‘50s – Bond seemed a logical next-decade extension of Hammer, particularly through the intermediate step of cool Peter Gunn, the Hammer imitation that sparked the TV private eye fad. The GUNN pre-credits sequences, followed by Mancini’s powerful theme set to abstract animation, is an obvious precursor to the way Bond films begin to this day.

I was alone among my junior-high peers in my enthusiasm for Fleming (a few were into Spillane, though). So when suddenly, in 1963, a film of DR. NO appeared on the pop-culture horizon, I could hardly believe it – had people in England actually made a movie just for me?

As an only child, I occasionally was able to pressure my parents in doing what I wanted. And what I wanted was to see DR. NO the evening it opened in Davenport, Iowa. Trips to the Quad Cities, before improved highways came along, were rare for my family. It took a lot of work to get my parents to take me to the first Bond film, in the middle of the week on a school night.

As someone who had been reading Fleming, I can assure you that Sean Connery’s “Bond, James Bond” all but sent me into a paroxysm of glee. He was perfect, and so was the movie. Soon the disease spread, and within a year all of my friends, particularly, the males, were Bond fanatics. We routinely went to openings at matinees and sat through the films at least twice. In those pre-VCR days, we gobbled up the double feature retreads that appeared a year or so later, as well. Binge watching is nothing new.

My lovely wife Barb also loved the Bond films, and in the early days of going together and well into the early years of our marriage, we would follow that same matinee-then-sit-through-it-again routine. The delight of seeing YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE twice remains a fond, shared memory.

Since then, I have never missed a Bond film on opening weekend – usually opening night. This continued through the hit-and-miss Roger Moore years – as a MAVERICK fan, I was more forgiving than some, since Moore had been Cousin Beau Maverick (and of course the Saint) – and I have a vivid memory of Barb and me seeing LIVE AND LET DIE in a theater in Wichita, Kansas (on our way back from a comic con in Texas). The title song and credit sequence was so great, what followed seemed pretty good, too.

I’ve gone on record here and elsewhere that I consider Timothy Dalton the second-best Bond next to Connery, who in my heart of hearts is the only true Bond. There are Bond movies without Connery, but the only real Bond movies have Connery in them (and I include NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN). On the other hand, Pierce Brosnan makes a fine melding of Connery and Moore, and unfairly got the bum’s rush out of a series he helped revitalize.

Now we come to Daniel Craig, who is a fine, tough Bond, if a little rough-hewn for anyone who has read the books – he’s one of those actors who the leading ladies love because the script tells them to. That aside, he may be the finest actor ever to play the role, and CASINO ROYALE, QUANTUM OF SOLACE and SKYFALL are terrific movies, including the second one on that list, even if it does lag behind the other two.

Which brings us to SPECTRE.

Spectre

First, here’s what I don’t like about the film – Sam Smith’s song. The title sequence is great, but Smith is a second-rate talent with a third-rate song, and Bond films deserve better. They deserve the best.

Second, here’s what I like about the film – everything else. I know reviews have been mixed, but those reviews tend to look at the film in an inappropriate, realistic way, not in the context of the series. They wanted something grittier, and instead got what they dismiss as a formulaic Bond film. Were these naysayers present during the last few scenes of SKYFALL, when the series did a backward reboot with Bond entering the classic Connery-era office?

SPECTRE is what the first three Craig movies were leading up to – a big, sometimes a little dumb, but always exciting James Bond movie much in the manner of DR. NO, FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE, GOLDFINGER, THUNDERBALL, YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE and ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE. Virtually all of those films are referenced in SPECTRE, but not in cutesy ways. The villain’s liar is DR. NO and YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE; Bond in captivity facing slow death is the laser-beam scene from GOLDFINGER; FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE’S hand-to-hand combat in a train compartment is expanded to every car; and ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE is referenced by a snowy mountain retreat and some Alpine violence.

At the same time, modern elements come into play – there’s nothing retro about the way Moneypenny, Q and M are portrayed, and the size of the action scenes rival or probably out-do anything in the BOURNE films. The villain (who also appears in a number of the films mentioned above, but I won’t spoil things by telling you that he’s Blofeld) (whoops) is the Moriarty of the Bond movies. Speaking of Moriarty, the actor who portrays him in the BBC SHERLOCK (Andrew Scott) appears as an adversary of M’s in the muddy bureaucracy of British spydom. Seems the bad guys want to control all the surveillance in the world, including anything pertaining to innocent citizens like you and me – which is about as topical a theme as you could come with.

If you don’t like this movie, I’m sorry, but you’re not a James Bond fan. You may be a fan of SKYFALL, you may be a fan of Daniel Craig, but not a Bond fan. And what gives me the right to make such a pronouncement? Well, without me, there would have been no SKYFALL or SPECTRE.

You see, I wrote a little graphic novel called ROAD TO PERDITION, the Sam Mendes-directed movie of which featured Daniel Craig. If I had not written PERDITION, Craig and Mendes would not have (wait for it) bonded.

You’re welcome.

* * *

Please check out one of the coolest reviews I’ve ever received for a Mike Hammer.

This just in: a review of the 1990 paperback, DICK TRACY: THE SECRET FILES.

And here’s a review of the Ms. Tree novel, DEADLY BELOVED.

Check out this splashy display of FATE OF THE UNION with a brief, nice review. (Did I mention this was pub day?)

Library Journal takes a nice look at Titan Books, with a mention or two of yours truly (oddly, though, no Mike Hammer reference).

Finally, here’s a terrific review of THE FIRST QUARRY.

M.A.C.